Arab building goes on unchecked on Jewish land

Menahem Begin lands at Atarot airport in northern Jerusalem in 1979. In the background, the Arab village of Qalandia. The JNF owned land in this area, but it has been overrun by illegal Arab building.

The scandal of rampant illegal building on Jewish-owned land in Jerusalem has once again shot to the fore. Some 700 buildings have gone up on Jewish land in Jerusalem in the last two years, and there could be as many as 6,000 built without permission altogether – while the authorities turn a blind eye. Quite often the owners are Sephardi Jews whose property rights are being sacrificed for political reasons.

For generations Jews who dreamed of Zion collected their pennies so the Jewish National Fund could purchase land in Israel. Today illegal Arab building on JNF lands goes unchecked by Israel’s leaders.

No fewer than 700 illegal housing units have been built by Arabs in the past two years on land purchased for Jews by the JNF in northern Jerusalem.

Arutz Sheva contacted the JNF to ask about the problem. However, JNF officials say the Israel Land Authority is responsible for administering the lands on their behalf.

Aryeh King, chairman of the Israel Land Fund, says his organization is conducting a careful survey of the illegal structures using aerial photographs, but adds the problem is exacerbated by the fact that the illegal building occurs beyond Israel’s security fence. Lands bought by the JNF are on both sides of the fence.

“We’re discussing lands in Qalandiya,” King explained. “All entry and activity has to be coordinated with the IDF and Ministry of Defense. No enforcement can be undertaken in these areas without the cooperation of the military and police. This is routinely denied on ‘security grounds.'”

For example, King says, “We have an aerial photo of an old building from before 2005, but the security fence being built makes these areas out of bounds, and we have no way of documenting and making claims for enforcement.”

“This inaction is politically motivated, and people don’t realize what is happening. The JNF offers to purchase land at nominal prices in order to return them to the Jewish people, but that’s not what is happening.”

“I hope that those who donate to the JNF will think twice before giving their money a body that does nothing to secure the assets they hold in trust for the Jewish people,” King added.

In light of the grim reality on the ground, King recently sent a letter to JNF donors, as well as members of the JNF board. In the letter, he describes the situation on the ground as seen through aerial photographs which he attached to the letter.

He writes, “The Jewish National Fund purchased lands before the state of Israel was declared with donations from Jews around the world. These lands were registered in the name of the Jewish National Fund. For over a decade the JNF has allowed Arabs to squat on these lands and illegally build without permission.”
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Arye King will be gving a talk at Ner Yisrael synagogue in Hendon, London NW4 at 8pm on Monday 27th February. For more details see British Israel Coalition Facebook page or email: [email protected]
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